J.C. Schildbach, LMHC
I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve gone out “Black Friday” shopping. In the past. I’m all done with that now. Or maybe not. But I’m definitely not going this year.
Let me be clear. When I say that I’ve gone out Black Friday shopping, I’m not one of the lot who camps outside Walmart, intent on storming the electronics department to get one of only ten guaranteed copies of Call of Duty Special Platinum Mech War on Sesame Street Edition, or a half-price plasma…or LCD…or LED…or smart TV two inches larger than the one I bought last year. Although, to be fair, one Christmas season when I was in high school, I spent weeks obsessively calling around (yes with a landline, and using a phone book) to toy and department stores until I was able to procure a ColecoVision Entertainment system—only by placing a hold on it at a distant Toys-R-Us, said hold expiring two hours from the time it was placed.
My consumerism over the last decade or so has involved a decidedly less frantic approach than is seen on TV news stories that somehow both criticize and normalize the frenzied crush of shopping. (How shocking people are behaving this way, when we’ve been ginning them up since before Halloween!) In fact, I’ve only ever gone Black Friday shopping while visiting family in Oregon over the Thanksgiving weekend. The draw of no sales tax, combined with the basic boredom of the suburbs makes the lure of low prices at least enticing enough to get me out of the house.
But, more to the point, those shopping excursions have been a chance to spend some one-on-one time with mom. Something about it hearkens back to weekly childhood shopping trips. Mom would check the sales ads and coupons, compile the list—sorted by store and item price—and we would head out. I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the groceries beyond maybe breakfast cereal. And there was always the distinct possibility of a sibling or two coming along with their own agenda. But a chance to split off from the Safeway trip to hit the Sprouse Reitz next-door, or getting mom to swing by Kmart so I could pick up a Star Wars figure, after stopping at Hank’s for milk, ground beef, and canned soup…now that was something.
The Black Friday trips, though, haven’t turned out to be all that shopping-oriented. We’ve wandered away from more stores empty-handed than not, and with no sense of urgency or regret. One year, we went a little out of our way so I could get a copy of the PS2 game “Destroy All Humans” at a Best Buy…or maybe it was a Circuit City. At any rate, they had plenty in stock, but when mom and I saw that the line was wrapped around the inside wall of the store, then up and down a few more aisles, that $30 in savings didn’t seem so important anymore. I put the game back in its proper place on the shelf, and we moved on.
Another year, I started to get a migraine—auras and all—in the middle of a Fred Meyer. Mom fished some aspirin out of her purse, and then we went to get coffee and chat, while I mostly kept my eyes closed during that nauseating visual swirl. Our shopping trip ended early that year.
On those occasions when mom and I have ventured out, half-heartedly obeying the culture’s demands to consume, M has slept in, then stayed in bed reading. Why get up and expend that kind of energy buying things you don’t need when you’ve been graced with a day off, after all?
I suppose I should inject something of an apology here. I’m writing my Thanksgiving post about Black Friday, when I do what I can to separate out the holidays, keeping them to their own celebrations. I feel we’ve gotten to where Thanksgiving is turning into some sort of afterthought—a meal we have to get through before we can start the Christmas season in earnest. Black Friday sales now start well before Thanksgiving, too—having broken away from their assigned day.
I’ll skip the list and just say that I’ve got plenty to be thankful for this year. Unfortunately, one of those is not a Thanksgiving visit with mom–M and my work schedules won’t allow it. Of course, no trip to mom’s for Thanksgiving means no Black Friday shopping with mom, no rolling around my sort-of-hometown in a not-really quest for goods, just catching up. I’m sad for the lack of that opportunity–but I did get to visit with mom, and my sister (who I hadn’t seen in a great, long while) earlier in the month.
This year for Thanksgiving, Ray’s Boathouse is hosting us (M, the kid, the kids’ boyfriend, and me—as well as lots and lots of strangers). Wherever you are, I hope you get a decent meal and steer clear of too much stress.
And if you’re headed out shopping over the next few days, keep it cheerful, and stay out of the news.